The British Film Institute and Women in Film & TV industry group weighed in Wednesday on the Harvey Weinstein scandal, describing it as an appalling consequence of the lack of gender parity in the entertainment world. British government culture secretary Karen Bradley said the accusations against the legendary Hollywood producer were “very disturbing.”
Funding organization BFI plays a central role in British film and said accounts of Weinstein’s allegedly abusive behavior would not have taken as long to emerge if the industry had a better gender balance. The institute recently published a study highlighting issues affecting the U.K. film business, including gender and diversity.
“We wholeheartedly support those brave enough to come forward and speak out,” the BFI said in a statement on the unfolding scandal surrounding Weinstein. It added that “the film industry urgently needs more women represented on every level, on and off screen. We don’t believe this situation would have taken so long to surface had there been greater parity of women in the industry. Advocating for better inclusion and representation is central to the BFI’s strategic priorities, and we have introduced a number of interventions to drive change.”
Kate Kinninmont, chief executive of Women in Film & TV, said she was delighted that BAFTA had suspended Weinstein’s membership. “Let’s hope The Academy will follow suit,” she said.
Kinninmont continued: “There has always been a culture of sexism and sexual harassment in this industry. It is a culture of bullying where the male movie moguls had total power over the careers of young ingenues. Like all forms of bullying, it is difficult to change the behavior of the bully or indeed of the victim. It’s the onlookers, the bystanders, all of us who can create change.
“Kudos to Emma Thompson who, when she heard about Weinstein’s treatment of Hayley Attwood on the set of ‘Brideshead,’ warned him that she would leave the picture if he ever did so again. We should all speak up if someone is bullied or humiliated in our presence.”
Bradley, who has oversight over the film industry in Britain, spoke out today on BBC Radio and on cable news network Sky News. “The reports are chilling,” she told Sky. “They’re very disturbing, very upsetting….It’s still allegations at the moment, but it’s simply unacceptable behavior from anybody, and in the entertainment industry, we need to make sure that…women feel confident to come forward if they have been victims of abuse and tell their story. We shouldn’t have anybody who is above the law.”
The BFI London Film Festival is underway in London, and Variety has been told that industry heavyweights have been advised not to talk publicly about the Weinstein scandal. Writer and director Guillermo Del Toro, however, did mention his “horrible” experience working with the Weinsteins while making “Mimic.”
“Back then the Weinsteins had a public aura as patrons of the arts, like the Borgias. And you don’t want to dine with Lucretia,” he said, to applause from the audience.
Writers Guild of Great Britain chair Gail Renard, meanwhile, echoed Lea Seydoux’s point that recent news underlines a wider industry problem. “The way women are treated by some of the powers-that-be in our industry often echoes the way women are depicted on the screen.” WGGB president Olivia Hetreed said: “In an overwhelmingly freelance industry that sits uneasily on the fence between commerce and art, exploitation has always been a problem and still is.”